8 Instances Where Game Companies Pulled a 180
Running a company is never easy, especially when that company caters to millions of video game fans on a daily basis. You have to be very careful and tread lightly; the gamer audience may enthusiastically love you or let the world know how much they hate you. Some prominent companies are more aware of this than others, which is why they chose to pull a complete 180 to satisfy their fans instead of continuing to face backlash from the public.
Microsoft and DRM
There’s so much excitement when next-generation consoles are announced. Fans and media are feverish for any sort of news, which proved to be one of Microsoft’s biggest challenges with the launch of the Xbox One. Leaks in April 2013 indicated that Microsoft’s new system would always need to be connected to the Internet.
This was met with heavy disdain, but Microsoft wasn’t budging, even after one of their own employees picked a fight about the matter on Twitter and suffered a tongue lashing from the community. Soon E3 came around and Microsoft confirmed the DRM rumors, and it was then that they saw the true wrath of their fans.
A few days after confirming DRM, Microsoft said “nevermind,” and decided that the Xbox One doesn’t need to be connected after all! There were some compromises though: users could no longer share their game library with up to nine of their friends. This was a small concession to make, however, when the entire gaming community is ready to write your console off before it even launches.
Sony and the PS4 Controller’s Light Bar
One of the new features of the PS4 is the controller itself: it’s been designed with integrated speakers, a trackpad, and a light bar that’s meant to enhance your gaming experience. Whether or not any of those features actually improve gameplay is still up for debate, but what we can say is that the PS4’s light bar has disgruntled many PlayStation 4 owners.
Some users have complained about the reflection the blue light creates when it shines off the television screen, and others claim the light is draining the controllers’ battery faster. Shuhei Yoshida, Sony’s president of Worldwide Studios, said you couldn’t turn the light bar off when users inquired about it on Twitter. Then during an interview with GameTrailers he mentioned there will be an option to turn it off—but he later clarified the option will actually be to just dim the light. Apparently, the light is essential for the controller’s functionality so you’ll never have the option to turn it off.
But who knows, dimming might be just the first step.
EA and their Online Pass
The debate of the merit of used games and their effects on the game industry has quieted in the last year, but from 2010 to 2013 it was a popular topic. Not too long ago online passes were the norm for a good chunk of multiplayer games, and EA was at that forefront of that initiative. Beginning with Dragon Age: Origins and The Stone Prisoner DLC and then really ramping it up with sports titles, online passes were required to play used EA games bought during that timeframe. Either you bought a new game or you paid an extra $10 to $15 for a code that allowed access to EA’s online servers and unlock the full functionality of the used game.
The company stood firm on their policy despite constant scrutiny, and even earned Worst Company in America two years in a row, a "triumph" that could be attributed in part to their online pass initiative. In November 2013 EA came around and discontinued their online passes altogether, for new and existing titles. Let’s see how EA ranks on the company list this year.
BioWare and Free-to-Play Star Wars
During its development, it was well known that Bioware was against the concept of Star Wars: The Old Republic ever becoming a free-to-play game. It was still holding tight to the subscription model that made World of Warcraft so much revenue back in the day, and they were confident it was going to work. It was Star Wars after all!
The game launched in December 2011 in North America with some buzz and modest user retention. But soon things began to fizzle out, and Bioware and EA took notice. That’s why on November 15, 2012 they announced Star Wars: The Old Republic would be a free-to-play game, where you could play all the story content from level 1 to 50 with no subscription fee required. They’ve since gone on to double their earnings.
Maxis and Sim City
At the beginning of 2013, a lot of excitement surrounded the release of Sim City, with throngs of fans ready to begin building metropolises. The buzz turned negative, however, when major online issues began to plague game’s launch, which was exacerbated by the DRM policy that required the game to always be connected to the Internet. Users took their fury to Amazon, where they gave the game dramatically negative reviews, forcing Amazon to temporarily take the game down from their site. In spite of this, Maxis insisted Sim City was an online experience that needed to be online no matter what. An offline mode just didn’t fit with their vision for the game.
About nine months later Sim City was updated and received an offline mode where "all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an Internet connection."
Ubisoft and DRM
Online passes and DRM were not just an EA issue; Ubisoft also dabbled a bit with their own version, UPlay. Not only did you need to sign-in with your Ubisoft account in order to start a game, you also needed to connect to the Internet to have your credentials authenticated and continue playing. Director of Customer Service and Production Brent Wilkinson thought lightly of the situation, saying ”We think most people are going to be fine with it," since, "Most people are always connected to an Internet connection.”
In 2012, one week before EA announced they were no longer using online passes, Ubisoft confirmed their games would no longer use DRM. The company stated they were implementing this change due to the fan feedback they were receiving. In fact, in 2014 the VP of Digital Publishing for Ubisoft Chris Early believed DRM did not stop piracy, “I don't want us in a position where we're punishing a paying player for what a pirate can get around.” He continued, “I think it's much more important for us to focus on making a great game and delivering good services. The reality is, the more service there is in a game, pirates don't get that.”
Blizzard and Diablo III’s Auction House
When Blizzard announced their newest game, Diablo III, they got fans excited by revealing a new feature for the game called the auction house. In the auction house you could trade and buy items with real money to acquire hard-to-get items you’ve been hankering for but you haven’t been lucky enough to earn in random loot drops.
Unfortunately the auction house proved to be detrimental to the game’s economics and community. Although the auction house was created to combat the third-party sites that would deal in these types of transactions, it soon became a cycle of exploit and inflation. Three years after its launch Blizzard finally closed down the store with a brief statement that “the auction houses are now shut in the Americas.”
Microsoft and Indies
Microsoft kept making headlines for its reversals last year, and one of those headlines included their stance on indie developers. While Sony was pushing their initiative to work more with independent developers, Microsoft made a startling announcement in May 2013 that if indie developers wanted their work on the Xbox One, they needed to work through a third-party publisher. This was a blow to developers like Mike Bithell of Thomas Was Alone who voiced his concerns that gamers were now unlikely to see his games on the Xbox One anytime soon.
After some bad rapport with developers and the community, Microsoft came out in July and amended their stance, letting the public know that there will be a program for indie developers to publish their games on the Xbox One without the need of a third-party publisher. With this change, it was also announced that the Xbox 360 would allow self-publishing as well.